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Winter Vehicle Maintenance Tips: Expert Advice

Between mechanical issues, challenging winter conditions, and slippery roads, navigating the colder months presents numerous obstacles for drivers. Ensure your vehicle is prepared for the season by adhering to the following maintenance tips from the VitroPlus team.

1. Check your tires for wear.

In Quebec, winter tires are mandatory from December 1 to March 15. Tires must be in good condition, as their wear affects braking distance and vehicle stability on icy, snow-covered roads.

Even though regulations allow for a tread depth of up to 2/32″, we recommend that you change your winter tires as soon as their wear falls below 6/32″. Measure this depth by sticking a 25¢ coin into the grooves of your tires, in different places. If you can see the caribou’s nose, you’ll have little grip.

2. Have your brakes inspected.

Vehicles that don’t get a lot of driving often require a thorough cleaning of the brake system to prevent rust. It’s also common for brakes to be under-used on electric vehicles with regenerative braking. To be on the safe side, ask your mechanic to check the condition of your brake discs and pads.

3. Test your battery.

Cold weather is particularly hard on batteries. If yours is more than five years old, the risk of starting failure is greater. Assess its condition with a battery tester, or have it inspected by an expert to see if it needs replacing soon.

4. Have your ignition system checked.

Worn spark plugs and cables can impair your engine’s performance, unnecessarily increase fuel consumption or cause breakdowns. Save yourself the trouble by having them inspected before winter.

5. Change your engine oil.

Check your vehicle’s owner’s manual for the recommended frequency of oil changes. Motor oil tends to thicken in cold weather, so you’ll be able to get the best performance from a new oil, without necessarily waiting until the next service interval. Synthetic oil also remains more liquid and more efficient than conventional oil in extreme cold.

6. Have your antifreeze inspected.

This green or orange liquid protects your engine from the cold. Make sure your tank is full, and that the water/antifreeze concentration of the mixture corresponds to your manufacturer’s recommendations (usually 50%).

7. Replace your windshield wipers.

Today’s wipers rarely last more than six months. Since wipers are relatively inexpensive and easy to replace, it’s a good idea to change them at the slightest sign of wear, for better visibility and to avoid damaging your windshield. Opt for winter wipers whose rubber remains flexible even at very low temperatures.

8. Clean your headlights.

Between darkness and snowstorms, visibility is often poor in winter. Make sure your headlights are working properly, then clean them with a specially formulated product. This will restore the luster of your headlights, allowing them to diffuse light more effectively.

9. Fill your reservoir with windshield washer fluid.

Don’t wait until you have to stop at the side of the road in the middle of a storm because you’ve run out of washer fluid! Fill it up before every long trip, and always keep a fresh can in your trunk.

10. Lubricate your locks.

Even if you have a smart key and make little use of manual locks, lubricate them with a Teflon-based spray. This will protect them from freezing and give you access to your vehicle should your electronic key ever fall flat.

11. Maintain your window rails and seals.

After lowering your windows, spray a suitable lubricant inside the frames. Roll your windows up and down a few times to spread the product evenly over the tracks. This will prevent water from collecting and freezing in the mechanism. Apply the same product with a cloth to the rubber seals on the doors and rear trunk to protect them from moisture.

12. Install a block heater.

When the mercury drops below -15°C, this little device warms up the engine just enough to facilitate oil circulation and reduce starting friction. It also helps to warm up the cabin faster and reduce fuel consumption.

13. Protect your vehicle against rust.

Although dry spring and summer weather is preferable, a rustproofing treatment can be applied in any season. It protects your vehicle from corrosion, prolongs its life and helps maintain its resale value.

14. Keep an emergency kit in your vehicle.

You never know where or when misfortune might strike on the road. Keep an emergency kit on hand to deal with the unexpected and stay safe while waiting for roadside assistance. At the very least, it should contain a flashlight, jumper cables, a small shovel, a first-aid kit, a warm blanket, gloves and hats, a few basic tools, energy bars and traction aids.

15. Wash the outside of your vehicle at least once a month.

This good habit will prevent the build-up of de-icing salt, abrasives and dirt on the bodywork and underneath your vehicle. Preferably on mild days to prevent ice build-up when you leave the car wash.

16. Leave your electric vehicle plugged in.

Unless your manufacturer advises otherwise, it’s best to leave your electric vehicle plugged in all winter and keep the battery fully charged. This way, your vehicle will be able to use the current to better regulate the temperature of the lithium-ion batteries, which are greatly affected by the cold.